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National Science Week

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (11:59): Thank you, Mr Acting Speaker. I acknowledge that you have brought this particular motion to the parliament, and it is my pleasure to speak on it. There has been an amendment moved, but essentially this is a motion that this house recognises that National Science Week is to be held from 10 to 18 August 2019. Amongst other things, it acknowledges the work being undertaken by the state government to increase participation in STEM subjects for students to ensure that young South Australians have the skills for the jobs of the future.

Like almost everybody else in this place, I have seen the benefit in some of our local schools in relation to STEM projects: science, technology, engineering, maths. The amount of money that is being spent on developing classroom facilities to enhance the teaching and learning of these particular subjects is critically important. I am going to take a slightly different slant on this motion today. I am going to talk about one of the absolute pinnacles of scientific achievement in the 20th century at least, and we are about to celebrate its 50thanniversary—that is, men landing on the Moon on 20 July 1969.

I am giving my age away a bit here, but I am old enough to remember this, and I remember it clearly, in fact. I had just turned eight years old. We arrived at school on that day. Maybe it was 21 July for us because we are that little bit ahead of the Americans. Our school, the Cummins Area School, at which I was in grade 3, did not have any televisions. For goodness sake, out on the farm we had only just got the power on, so television was a bit of a stretch. I distinctly remember being in the classroom. Those of us who had caught school buses into school that day were allocated to various town kids so that we could go home with them, sit in front of their televisions and watch men land on the Moon.

We did our best to view the footage. Unfortunately, I think our problem was that we were a long way from Adelaide and not that we were a long way from the Moon because the reception on that particular day was not especially good. Through the fuzz and the haze we could barely make out Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon. As boys often do, we eventually gave up, went out and kicked the footy. However, the point is I remember the day; it was a significant and incredibly important day.

I have done a little bit of research on the Apollo 11 mission, which of course is the one that did land on the Moon for the first time. It was part of the Apollo program, which extended through the years 1963 to 1972. It was a program that had seen its genesis during the Second World War when rockets were first developed. From that time on, rockets were getting better and better and the goal, ultimately, was to go into space and then, at President Kennedy’s decree, land on the Moon.

The Apollo program was designed to land humans on the Moon and bring them back safely to Earth. Six of the missions—Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17—achieved this goal, the first one being in July 1969, the last being in 1972. I might point out that we have not actually been back to the Moon since. I heard just recently that we are planning to be there again in 2025, but that will be well over 50 years since the first landing, obviously.

Amongst those Apollo missions, Apollo 7 and 9 were Earth-orbiting missions to test the command and lunar modules and did not return lunar data. Apollo 8 and 10 tested various components while orbiting the Moon and returned photography of the lunar surface. Apollo 13 did not land on the Moon due to a malfunction but also returned photographs. I am sure a good number of us have seen the Tom Hanks movie about Apollo 13.

What stuck in my mind more than anything was when either Tom Hanks or the other copilot was calculating the angle of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere with a slide rule. To me, it was extraordinary. I learnt to use a slide rule at school but I would not know how to use one now. These guys were so competent and proficient as pilots and scientists that they were able to do complex calculations with a slide rule.

The six missions that landed on the Moon returned a wealth of scientific data and almost 400 kilograms of lunar samples. Experiments included soil mechanics, meteoroids, seismic and heat flow, lunar ranging, magnetic field and solar and wind experiments. My brother tells the story of when he was over here in Adelaide at boarding school, and a beaker of Moon dust was displayed in our assembly hall. The boys filed past and one accidentally knocked the beaker over and the Moon dust spilled onto the assembly hall floor. The cleaner went and got a banister brush and swept it all up and put it back into the beaker and it was still mostly Moon dust. He swears that that is a true story.

Mr Pederick: If you hadn’t told anyone, it would have been all Moon dust.

Mr TRELOAR: Yes, that’s right. It is on the public record now. The primary objective of the Apollo 11 mission was to complete a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy on 25 May 1961, and that was to perform a crude, lunar landing and return to Earth. It was preceded by other programs: Gemini, and I forget the name of the other one. It did not just come out of the hat; it was a dedicated project to landing on the Moon.

Flight objectives included scientific exploration by the lunar module and this is my rather tenuous link back to the motion. The crew deployed a television camera to transmit signals to Earth, which we were able to see in Warrow Road, Cummins, and the deployment of a solar wind composition experiment, a seismic experiment package, and a laser ranging retro-reflector.

During the exploration, the two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, were to gather samples of lunar surface materials for return to Earth, while Michael Collins remained orbiting the Moon. They were also to extensively photograph the lunar terrain and deploy scientific equipment with still and motion picture cameras, so it was filmed.

This was to be the last Apollo mission to fly a free return trajectory, which would enable a return to Earth with no engine firing, providing a ready abort of the mission at any time prior to lunar orbit insertion. Apollo 11 launched from Cape Kennedy on 16 July 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot, Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot, Edwin Buzz Aldrin, into an initial Earth orbit of 114 x 116 miles.

An estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong’s televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took, famously, ‘one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’. The first colour TV transmission to Earth from Apollo 11 occurred during the translunar coast of the CSMLM lunar module. Later on 17 July, a three-second burn was made to perform the second of four scheduled mid-course corrections programmed for the flight. It was an extraordinary effort.

About 12 months ago, I had the pleasure of viewing the Adelaide premiere of a movie called First Man. I was there along with the member for West Torrens and we each had a couple of guests. It is a movie portrayal of the life of Neil Armstrong, and it really depicted him as a man. What came through was the extraordinary skill and ability not only of Neil Armstrong, who was chosen to be the first man on the Moon, but of all the astronauts who were involved in the Apollo programs and the risks they took. They sat atop a rocket, for goodness sake, that took them with goodness knows how much fuel into space.

We have not been back to the Moon since. We have continued to explore space with ever more powerful telescopes and unmanned spacecraft. As I said, I heard the other day that we are planning to return in 2025. I would suggest the astronauts who do it then will do it in much more comfort and hopefully with much more safety than the Apollo astronauts did 50 years ago this month.


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